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Expert: COVID-19 variant mutations do not always translate to ‘real world effects’

/ 12:28 PM November 26, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Mutations of a COVID-19 variant do not automatically translate to increased risks for death, transmission and reduced efficacy to vaccines, an infectious disease expert who is a member of the Department of Health’s Technical Advisory Group said Friday.

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Dr. Edsel Salvaña said this after South Africa detected a new COVID-19 variant called B.1.1.529 that has a “very unusual constellation” of mutations which, according to scientists, are concerning because they could help it evade the body’s immune response and make it more transmissible.

Salvaña said there is limited data yet on the said variant, but acknowledged that its mutations are alarming.

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“Sinusubaybayan po natin ito. Bagama’t hindi pa naman siya nagtetake-over gaya ng Delta, nakakabahala rin ang mutations na taglay nito,” he said at the Laging Handa public briefing.

(We are monitoring this. This has not taken over like the Delta variant, but its mutations are also alarming.)

“Sa ngayon kaunti pa lang ang alam natin, kasi ‘yung mutations naman na nakikita natin, maraming mutations, more than 30 mutations nga sa spike protein, but it does not necessarily translate into real-world [effects],” he added.

(As of now, we know very little about this variant, but several mutations do not necessarily translate into real-world effects.)

Salvaña cited for instance the P.3 variant first detected in the Philippines which also had alarming mutations but was not declared a variant of concern by the World Health Organization (WHO).

“So while nakakabahala ang presence of certain mutations, hindi automatic na mas nakakamatay ito, mas natatransmit, o mas bumababa ang epekto ng ating vaccines,” he explained.

(So even if the presence of certain mutations is alarming, it does not automatically mean it will be more deadly and transmissible and will reduce the efficacy of vaccines.)

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“One thing is for sure though. Kahit anong variant pa ‘yan, gumagana pa rin ang paggamit ng mask at ‘yung ating minimum public health standards, mapeprevent po ‘yan. Ang ating bakuna po, most likely tuluy-tuloy pa rin ang protection against severe disease,” he added.

(One thing is for sure though. No matter what variant that is, wearing masks and observing minimum public health standards will prevent its spread. Our vaccines also will most likely continue to protect against severe disease.)

The WHO said it is “closely monitoring” the B.1.1.529 variant and is expected to determine if it should be designated a variant of “interest” or of “concern”.

“Early analysis shows that this variant has a large number of mutations that require and will undergo further study,” the WHO earlier said.

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/MUF

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TAGS: B.1.1.529, coronavirus Philippines, COVID-19, Edsel Salvana, South Africa
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